What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.
As our nation confronts the COVID-19 pandemic, OK Policy will be analyzing state and federal policies that impact our state and its residents during this national health emergency. These posts reflect the most current information available at publication, and we will update or publish follow-ups as new information emerges. OK Policy’s pieces on these issues are being collected at OKPolicy.org/COVID-19.
This Week from OK Policy
- Joint Statement: Actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Oklahoma’s criminal justice system: Nine Oklahoma organizations have come together to urge elected officials and state officials to take urgent action to manage the serious threat of a COVID-19 outbreak in Oklahoma Corrections facilities. [OK Policy]
- Policy Matters: Fighting a pandemic, not bureaucracy: As his fellow governors have asked for a pause to bureaucratic processes during this health emergency, we implore Gov. Stitt to extend the same grace to his constituents. He should withdraw his health care proposal, or at the very least, significantly extend the comment period to allow as many Oklahomans to participate. [Ahniwake Rose / The Journal Record]
- COVID-19 crisis shows the need for health care now. Here’s three things lawmakers can do to protect Oklahomans’ health care: Recent events have made glaringly apparent how public health and economic crisis are inseparable. [Carly Putnam / OK Policy]
- Providing food security for Oklahoma students who might otherwise go without meals: OSDE received approval for waivers to allow schools to provide “grab and go” meals at no cost to low-income students who qualify for free and reduced-priced lunch through the Summer Food Service Program. [Rebecca Fine / OK Policy]
- Oklahoma courts have not suspended fines and fees: Oklahoma’s county courts, which handle all civil and most criminal cases across the state, have suspended most of their activities until April 15 at the earliest. [Ryan Gentzler / OK Policy]
- (Capitol Update) Future uncertain for Oklahoma’s 2020 Legislative session: It’s an understatement to say the future of this legislative session is uncertain. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy]
- Oklahoma prisons at risk during COVID-19 health emergency: Much work remains to ensure the health and safety of inmates, law enforcement, corrections staff, and the broader community. [Damion Shade / OK Policy]
- School support personnel play vital role, should receive pay during closure: Support staff serve as the backbone of schools, and their responsibility to keep schools safe and clean have become even more critical amidst the coronavirus outbreak. [Rebecca Fine / OK Policy]
- Governor should extend health care comment period as virtual ‘public hearings’ lack transparency, full representation: Whenever our governments propose sweeping change to how they operate, it’s incumbent upon them to act transparently and provide maximum opportunities for citizen input. Oklahoma’s ham-handed attempts to force through the Governor’s health care proposal fails in both regards. [Carly Putnam / OK Policy]
- The cost of denying paid sick leave: The current public health emergency makes it clear that paid leave, including paid sick leave, is a critical benefit of employment. [Courtney Cullison / OK Policy]
- Evictions are currently suspended in Oklahoma: Oklahoma’s county courts, which handle all civil and most criminal cases across the state, have suspended most of their activities until April 15 at the earliest. [Ryan Gentzler / OK Policy]
- This is the emergency we’ve been saving for: We’ve clearly entered new and unknown territory, and our thinking must change to protect our fellow Oklahomans’ health and financial stability, and to speed our state’s recovery from this crisis. [Paul Shinn / OK Policy]
- Media Statement: Oklahoma needs to account for all students as schools move to distance learning: As Oklahoma schools are pivoting to distance learning to complete the spring 2020 semester, education officials need to ensure all students have equal access.
Storybanker and Administrative Assistant application deadline is Monday: The deadline to apply for OK Policy’s Storybanker and Administrative Assistant positions is 5 p.m., Monday, March 30. Learn more and apply
Weekly What’s That
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, is the nation’s largest public food assistance program. Its primary purpose is to increase the food purchasing power of eligible low-income households in order to improve their nutrition and alleviate hunger.
To be eligible for SNAP, a household must have gross monthly income (income before any of the program’s deductions are applied) at or below 130 percent of the poverty line and net income (income after deductions are applied) at or below the poverty line.
In Oklahoma, 378,417 households and 804,641 total persons received SNAP benefits at some point in FY 2019. On average, 574,213 people received an average daily benefit of $4. The great majority of SNAP recipients are low-income families with dependent children, seniors, and persons with disabilities.
SNAP is paid for by the federal government and administered jointly by the US Department of Agriculture and state human services agencies (Oklahoma Department of Human Services).
Quote of the Week
“Hockey great Wayne Gretzky once said the secret to his success was to ‘skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.’ Likewise, Oklahoma’s leaders need to base such serious decisions not on the numbers and situation in which we find ourselves today (which we already know are inaccurate due to a lack of testing), but on where we could be in the coming weeks or, more appropriately, where we want to be in that time frame.”
-A letter from Oklahoma medical professionals urging Gov. Stitt to take stronger action to contain the COVID-19 virus [via Non Doc]
Editorial of the Week
If there’s one bit of advice those seeking information should heed, it’s this: Don’t turn to social media for answers. And if you can’t help yourself, at least don’t pass it on to others as gullible as you are.
Newspapers won’t print information they haven’t verified, so that’s a good place to start. The next place to head would be to websites manned by competent medical and health care professionals, along with legitimate scientists. Even if they don’t have all the answers, they know more about viruses than the rest of us. That’s important to remember, even though some of the highest-level national leaders are casting aspersions upon them…
Don’t be part of the problem. Don’t pass lies. That’s never a good idea, but now, it could cost lives.
Numbers of the Day
- 140,700 – Approximate number of grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches for students distributed in one week by Oklahoma’s two largest school public districts — Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
- $1.534 billion – The amount in federal funding Oklahoma will receive from the new federal stimulus to aid our responses to the COVID-19 health and economic crisis. But more will be needed to offset the skyrocketing cost and harm to our communities.
- 54% – Percentage of Oklahoma City’s general-fund revenue from sales-tax receipts, which this fiscal year was projected to be about $254 million. Sales taxes are among the largest sources of government revenue in the state, and officials statewide are anticipating how loss of sales tax revenue will impact their communities.
- 18,000 – The record number of unemployment claims filed during the week ending March 21. The prior week, approximately 9,000 unemployment claims were filed.
- 2 – The number of states (Arizona and Iowa) seeking to temporarily ease their Medicaid waiver requirements and make it easier for residents to get and keep coverage under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program during the coronavirus pandemic.
- 9.3 – The number of days’ worth of protective equipment that Oklahoma hospitals have on hand (as of Sunday evening)
What We’re Reading
- Restaurants and hotels are putting workers on ‘zero hour schedules.’ Here’s how you can get unemployment benefits even if you’re not officially laid off. [Business Insider]
- Voters support a response to the Coronavirus that meets the scale of the crisis. [Data for Progress]
- Why coronavirus is a food security crisis, too. [City Lab]
- As layoffs skyrocket, the holes in America’s safety net are becoming apparent. [Washington Post]
- GOP-led states diverge on easing Medicaid access during COVID-19. [Modern Healthcare]
- How can Medicaid enhance state capacity to respond to COVID-19? [Kaiser Family Foundation]